The official rules of Texas Hold'em are actually very logical and simple and require just a few minutes to learn. Mastering Texas Hold'em, however, will take you a bit longer. Join us as we go through the rules and gameplay step-by-step.
Introduction to Texas Hold'em Poker
If you’re just getting started learning poker games and Texas Holdem Poker specifically, keep this guide handy for quick reference. If you ever get confused by the action, read below for some guidance. Each topic contains links to more in-depth articles on that specific aspect of Texas Holdem rules. When you feel you’ve got the hang of it and are ready to play, check out where you can play some real money online poker.
Before we get into describing the full Texas Hold'em rules and gameplay, here’s a quick glossary of terms you’ll encounter:
- Blinds: Short for “blind bets,” these are the forced bets made before the cards are dealt. In Hold'em, blinds take the place of the classic “ante.”
- Button: Nickname for the player acting as the dealer in current hand.
- Check: Similar to a call but no money is bet. If there is no raise preflop, the big blind may check.
- Flop: The first three community cards dealt.
- Fourth Street: See Turn.
- Fifth Street: See River.
- All-In: A player puts all of his or her remaining chips into the pot
- Preflop: Anything that occurs before the flop is dealt is preflop.
- River: The 5th and final community card dealt; also known as fifth street.
- Showdown: After the final round of betting when players reveal their hands to discover the pot’s winner.
- Turn: The fourth community card dealt; also known as fourth street
Basic Texas Hold'em Poker Rules
Watch our How to Play Texas Holdem introductory video below. Then read on underneath for a more detailed look at all of unique Texas Holdem rules.
Texas Hold'em Poker is a community card poker game with game play focused as much on the betting as on the cards being played. Although the rules and game play are the same, the end goal is slightly different depending on if you’re playing a Holdem cash game or a Texas Holdem Poker tournament.
A Texas Hold'em tournament is the same as any other game of Hold'em with a few added rules and twists. Learn more about the unique rules of Texas Holdem poker tournaments. Meanwhile, a Holdem cash game is played on a single table with 2 to 10 players. The goal is simple: win as many chips as you can, one pot at a time. You win a pot by having the best hand after the final community card has been dealt, or by having all other players fold before the showdown. A full hand is made by combining your one or both your hole cards with the community cards.
A Texas Hold'em game can be broken up into three main parts:
- Betting Rounds
Basic Video on Texas Hold'em Rules
You don't have much time? Our short video will teach you the basics of Texas Hold'em in just 2 minutes!
The Texas Hold'em Dealer Button
Once you have your players around the table the first thing you need to play poker is to have chips. Before you can figure out what kind of chips to give each player, you need to understand how the game works a little better, so we’ll get back to this. For now, assume all players have chips in front of them and everyone is ready to play poker.
The next step is picking the player who will start with the dealer button. Hold'em is played with what’s known as a rotating dealer, meaning a player will act as the dealer for one hand and then pass the role of dealer on to the player on their left when the hand is completed. To choose the dealer, either deal every player one card or spread the cards facedown on the table and have every player choose one. The player with the highest-valued card (aces are high for selecting a dealer) starts as the dealer.
If you’re in a live poker room or casino with a professional dealer (or someone volunteers to always physically deal the cards) the dealer button will still rotate around the table. Even though he or she is physically dealing the cards, for all intents and purposes the person with the button is viewed as being the dealer for the hand. Once the hand completes the player with the dealer button will pass it to the player on his or her left.
Texas Holdem Layout
Note that the Texas Holdem layout includes three flop boxes, one turn box and one river card box on the felt table. You may also have a play section marked on the table where your bets are made, away from your stack.
The Blinds in Texas Hold'em
Now that you have a dealer, you need to put out the blinds. There are two blinds in Texas Holdem Poker – a small blind and a big blind. These are forced bets required by two players to make sure there are some chips in the pot worth playing for. Without any money in the pot all players might be inclined to fold much more often, slowing down the action considerably.
The player directly to the left of the dealer puts out the small blind. The big blind (usually double that of the small blind) is then paid by the player to the left of the small blind. The size of the blinds will dictate the stakes of the game you’re about to play. Typically, you want players to buy in for no less than 100 times the size of the big blind. If you want to buy in for $20 you should play with blinds of 10¢/20¢. For convenience, most people will play 10¢/25¢.
In poker games at a live casino or poker room the maximum and minimum amounts a player can be in for will be in relation to the blinds. For example in a $1/$2 game the table minimum is usually $40 (20x the big blind) and the maximum is $200 (100x the big blind).
- 14 Essential Tips for Your First Time Playing Poker in a Casino
- How to Beat Live $1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em Poker
Back to the chips: If you’re playing in a live casino or online your chips will be provided for you in increments that make sense for the stakes you’re playing.
If you’re playing at home, you’ll need to determine which chips to use and how to distribute them. Once the blinds are set we know what kind of chips we’ll need to play with. (In the above example we’d use 10¢ chips, 25¢ chips and maybe a few $1 chips.)
You want to give players enough chips in each denomination to allow the game to run smoothly. Typically a player will need only 10% of their total chips in the smallest denomination, as they are only ever used to pay the small blind. For the most part, all Texas Holdem betting will be done with chips larger than that of the small blind. Once you have the chips sorted out and the first blinds in the pot, you’re now ready to deal the first hand.
Texas Hold'em Poker Betting Rules
The person dealing the cards deals to the left of the player with the dealer button first and rotates clockwise around the table. Each player gets one card at a time until each player has two cards, both face down. These are known as your hole cards and they are for your use alone when making your final 5-card poker hand.
When you play Texas Hold’em Poker, each round consists of a minimum of one and a maximum of four betting rounds. The first round of betting is when all players have got their two hole cards, also known as "Preflop". A hand ends when all players but one have folded or the fourth and final round of betting completes with multiple players still in the hand – whichever comes first.
At that point players enter into the showdown (to be explained in the next section) and the player with the highest hand, hole cards combined with the community cards takes the pot. If two players share the highest hand, the pot is split equally between them.
Example of a split pot:
Community cards are K Q J 10 3
Player 1 holds hole cards A Q making a straight using three community cards and his A Q from his hole cards
Player 2 holds hole cards A A making a straight using four community cards and one of the aces from his hole cards
(Note: The following betting rules apply to Limit Hold'em Poker. See more about No-Limit and Pot-Limit betting formats here.) When all players receive their hole cards you’re now in the pre-flop betting round. Each player looks at his or her cards and decides what action to take. In Hold'em only one player can act at a time. Preflop starts the first round of betting with the player to the left of the big blind. This player has three options:
- Fold: Pay nothing to the pot and throw away their hand, waiting for the next deal to play again.
- Call: Match the amount of the big blind (preflop this is also known as “limping in.”)
- Raise: Raise the bet by doubling the amount of the big blind. (Note: a player may raise more depending on the betting style being played, again see the rules for No-Limit and Pot-Limit above.)
Once a player has made their action the player to the left of them gets their turn to act. Each player is given the same options: fold, call the current bet (if the previous player raised, that is the amount you must call; if no one has bet it’s the big blind amount) or raise. In Limit Hold'em a raise is always the amount of one bet in addition to the amount of the previous bet. For example: if the big blind is 25¢ and the first player to act would like to raise they put in a total of 50¢ (the big blind + one additional bet).
If the next player would like to re-raise they would put in a total of 75¢ (the previous bet + one additional bet). Again, though, in No-Limit Hold'em a player can bet as much as the total amount of their chips on the table at any time. A Texas Hold'em betting round ends when two conditions are met:
- All players have had a chance to act.
- All players who haven’t folded have bet the same amount of money for the round.
Example of Two Betting Rounds
Example Betting Round 1
There are five players at the table:
- Player 1 – Button
- Player 2 – SB (10¢)
- Player 3 – BB (25¢)
- Player 4 – Under the Gun
- Player 5 – Cut-Off
Start of betting round
- Player 4 – Calls the big blind (25¢)
- Player 5 – folds
- Player 1 – Calls the big blind (25¢)
- Player 2 – Calls the big blind (since they already have 10¢ bet, they only have to add another 15¢, for a total of 25¢)
- Player 3 – Checks (since they already have the bet matched, they do not need to add more money to call; this is called checking)
End of betting round
When Player 2 calls the big blind all players now have the same amount of money in front of them. But Player 3 (the BB) has not had a chance to act so the round of betting is not over. Once Player 3 checks both conditions are met and the round of betting is over.
Example Betting Round 2
There are five players at the table:
- Player 1 – Button
- Player 2 – SB (10¢)
- Player 3 – BB (25¢)
- Player 4 – Under the Gun
- Player 5 – Cut-Off
Start of betting round
- Player 4 – Calls the big blind (25¢)
- Player 5 – Raises (50¢)
- Player 1 – Folds
- Player 2 – Folds
- Player 3 – Reraises (they already have 25¢ big blind in. They complete the bet of 50¢, and add one more bet for a 75¢ total)
- Player 4 – Folds ( previous call of 25¢ is now in the pot)
- Player 5 – Calls (matches Player 3's bet for a total of 75¢)
End of betting round
In this scenario all players had had a chance to act when Player 3 made the re-raise. But all players did not have the same amount of money bet. Once Player 4 folds, only Player 3 and Player 5 are left in the pot. When Player 5 calls, both conditions are met and the round of betting ends.
Once the preflop round ends, the flop is dealt and the second betting round starts. This is done by dealing the top card in the deck facedown on the table (called the “burn” card, it’s not in play), followed by three cards dealt face up in the middle of the table (see below). These are the first community cards, which all players can use to make their best 5-card poker hand.
Once the flop has been dealt the first post-flop betting round begins. The rules of post-flop betting rounds are the same as a pre-flop with two small exceptions:
- The first player to act is the next player with a hand to the left of the dealer
- The first player to act can check or bet; as there has been no bet made, calling is free.
A bet on the flop in Limit Holdem is the amount of the big blind. In No-Limit it has to be at least twice the size of the big blind but can be as much as all of a player’s chips. In our Limit Hold’em game as described above, a player must put out 25¢ to make a bet in the first post-flop betting round.
Once the betting round on the flop completes (meaning any players who want to see the next card have matched the value of any bets), the dealer again ‘burns” one card face-down out of play followed by the fourth community card dealt face up in the middle of the table beside the 3 flop cards (see image below). Once the turn has been dealt another found of betting begins, this is the third round of round of betting.
The third round of betting in Limit Hold'em is identical to the flop betting round with one single exception: The size of a bet for this round, and the final betting round, is doubled meaning that to make a bet in our game will now cost a player 50¢. In No-Limit Hold'em a player can again bet any amount of their chips as long as it’s at least twice the big blind or double that of any previous bet.
Assuming more than one player is left having not folded on one of the previous streets, the fifth and final card, (the River), is now dealt. Dealing the river is identical as dealing the turn with one card being burned facedown followed by a single card dealt face up.
This is the final street and no more cards will be dealt in this hand. The final betting round is identical to the Texas Holdem round on the turn and players can their hole cards with the community cards to make the best possible hand. Remember not to reveal your hole cards before the last betting round is complete, this will in most cases "kill" your hand.
Once all community cards have been dealt and the river betting round has been completed the players now enter into the showdown. At this point the best 5-card poker hand wins the pot. Here are the rules you need to know about a Hold'em showdown:
- The player who bet on the river is the default first player to reveal their hand. If any other players choose to show their hand first, that is OK.
- If no betting happened on the river (all players checked), the player closest to the left of the dealer must open their hand first, continuing clockwise around the table.
- If a player is holding a losing hand it is their option to reveal their cards or simply muck their hand and concede the pot.
For more on How to Determine the Winning Texas Hold'em Hand and Which Hand Wins, check the links below:
The Best 5-Card Hand in Texas Hold'em
In Texas Hold'em Poker you must make the best 5-card hand possible using any combination of your two hole cards and the five community cards on the table. You can use both, one or none of your own hole cards to make your best hand. Here are some rules about evaluating a winning poker hand:
- Remember the official poker hand rankings. There are no exceptions to this order: a flush always beats a straight; three of a kind always beats two pair, etc.
- There are no hands used in Hold'em other than the hands listed in this chart. For example having three pairs is actually only “two pair,” and the highest-valued two pair make up your final hand.
- Final poker hands must be exactly 5 cards and only those five cards are used to evaluate the winning hand.
The board is 2 J Q K A Player 1 hole cards: 10 9 Player 2 hole cards: 10 2
Combined with the community cards, both players best hand has the same rank (a straight from ten to ace). This means the pot is split between the two players. The remaining cards and the fact Player 1 also has a pair means nothing – only the best five-card hand factors into deciding the winner.
If all remaining players have nothing (no pair or anything stronger), the winning hand is the hand with the highest-valued single card, meaning:
A A 3 3 4 4 6 6 7 7
is a better hand than:
K K Q Q J J 9 9 8 8
A A J J 9 9 8 8 6 6
is a better hand than:
A A J J 9 9 8 8 2 2
Suits are never used to evaluate the strength of a hand.
Once you determine the winning poker hand that player receives the pot. The dealer passes the dealer button to his or her left and the two players to the left of the new dealer put out their big and small blinds respectively.
Additional Texas Hold'em Rules
- A player must either declare their intent to raise verbally before making any actions or bring the amount of chips equal to the total amount of their raise into play at the same time. A player is not allowed to place chips, return to their stack and place more chips. This is known as a string bet.
- Solutions to any other random situation you come across can be found here.
- The minimum number of chips a player is allowed to buy before their first hand dealt is determined by the house rules governing the game. Typically a minimum is 50-100 times the big blind.
- There is no maximum to the number of chips a player may buy at any time.
- In a cash game a player may reload, or add more chips to their stack, at any time between hands. Once a hand is started, a player may only use the chips they had in play at the beginning of the hand, during that hand. Any additional chips will not be “in play” until the next deal.
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Texas Hold'em Buy in Rules
A Texas Holdem buy in refers to how much it costs to enter a poker cash game or tournament. There are usually specific rules for Texas Holdem buy ins, which can also differ from one poker site to another. But here's the general gist of it. Most poker rooms will have minimum buy-ins of roughly 20 to 40 big blinds for cash games. Whereas the maximum buy-in would be capped at around 100 big blinds. In deep stack games, this can increase to 250 big blind stacks - and even more.
Occasionally you may get a choice of buy-in amount so you can choose to enter deep or short-stacked. It obviously costs less to enter short, but the downside is your implied odds decrease significantly post-flop. Meaning you your gameplay is limited, you'll see less flops and can win less chips. Also, you need to take rake into consideration - which is the % taken by the card room. This also makes a short stack less profitable.
However, you should still buy-in with what you a) can afford to lose; and/or b) are comfortable losing. Your buy-in amount may also reflect the skill level you're playing at and your bankroll. Even the best poker players have losing stretch and you should be able to cater that without affecting your life negatively. Remember: You should never take chips off the table - especially not pocket them to keep them 'safe'.
Practice Texas Hold'em Online Free
While the rules of Texas Hold'em might seem a bit complex in spots they really are quite easy to pick up in practice. And there’s nothing more important to learning the game than playing some actual Texas Holdem poker hands in real life. This can easily be done at home among friends (check out our full guide to running an amazing poker home game), at a real live casino or at online poker sites.
Playing Texas Hold'em Poker online might even be the easiest way to get comfortable with the Texas Hold'em rules as you can play hands at a much faster pace. You can choose to play for real money, of course, or you can start playing the free Texas Holdem games offered at every site. Check our page for the best places to play free Texas Holdem online here:
More on How to Play Texas Holdem Poker
- Texas Holdem Tournament Rules
- No Limit Texas Holdem and Pot Limit Holdem Betting Rules
- How to Play Limit Hold'em Poker | Limit Holdem Rules
- Odd Texas Holdem Poker Rules and Situations
- How to Play Poker – The Ultimate Guide for Poker Beginners
- Best Online Poker Bonus Offers
- 10 Essential Texas Hold'em Moves: The Check-Raise
- Online Poker Tournament Series
Texas Holdem FAQs
What are the top Texas Holdem Official Rules?1. BUY-IN - In a cash game, there is a minimum buy-in to enter, but you can reload or buy more chips at any point outside a hand. In a tournament you buy-in once, with the possibility of re-entering. Your starting stack is typically 100 big blinds or more.
2. DEALER BUTTON - This represents the 'rotating' dealer which moves after each hand. To choose the first dealer, each player picks a face-down card from the deck and the one with the highest value card is the dealer.
3. BLINDS - There are two 'blind' players after the button (clockwise) - Small and Big Blind. The big blind is the call price of the round and small blind is half of that. These are forced bets that the players in question need to put out to build a pot, irrelevant of their hand.
4. DEALING - You need to deal clockwise around the table, starting from the small blind. Each player gets one card at a time for a total of two hole cards. After a round of betting here, you deal 3 cards for the flop followed by another betting round. Then one more card for the turn, more betting, then one more river card and final betting. Before dealing each round, the dealer must 'burn' the card at the top of the deck
5. ACTIONS - Every time cards are dealt or turned on the board, there is an action. Choose to check (do nothing), bet (add chips to the pot), call (match someone's bet), raise (add even more chips than the bettor), or fold (discard their hand and exit the round). A bet must be at least worth two big blinds. Or if you raise, it must be at least double the previous bet. Each round is only over when all players have acted - either placed their chips, folded or checked around.
6. BETTING / RAISING RULES - You need to declare your intent to raise or the amount before making an action. Or bring their chip raise amount into play at the same time. You can't place chips gradually - This is known as a string bet and would be considered a call.
7. SHOWDOWN - Unless everyone folds to one player, the best hand at showdown (showing cards after last betting round post-river) wins the pot. The player who bet on the river should reveal their hand first. The other/s can show or muck/fold their hand and give up the pot.
8. THE BEST HAND - Poker hand rankings are as follows, with the best ranging from top to bottom:
Three of a Kind
How many Texas Holdem betting rounds are there?There are FOUR Texas Holdem betting rounds:
- after the turn
- after the river (showdown)
How should the Texas Holdem layout be?Note that the Texas Holdem layout includes three flop boxes, one turn box and one river card box on the felt table. You may also have a play section marked on the table where your bets are made, away from your stack
How many players for Texas Holdem?A Texas Holdem cash game is played on a single table with 2 to 10 players. The goal in a cash game is to win as many chips as you can. A multi-table tournament will have a number of players divided into multiple tables with 9-10 players on each table. As players run out of chips and are eliminated, the number of tables reduces until the final table (9-10 players). Play continues until heads up (2 players) and then the final prize winner.
How do blinds work in Texas Holdem?There are two 'blind' players after the button (clockwise) - Small and Big Blind. The big blind is the call price of the round and small blind is half of that. These are forced bets that the players in question need to put out to build a pot, irrelevant of their hand. This is to induce more action from these players because they have the worst position. Otherwise they'd never play!
How many cards do you get in Texas Holdem?Texas Hold'em combines your two hole cards with the five community cards. The player with the best 5-card hand (out of 7) including BOTH hole cards wins the pot for that round.
What's the most common winning hand in Texas Holdem?The hand rankings are placed in that order for a reason. The more valuable cards are the ones that are harder to get. So by default, since High cards and single pairs fall at the bottom, these are the most common hands to hit. Therefore, Ace or King high cards, or pairs - most likely a pair of face cards since they're played more.
What's the worst starting hand in Texas Holdem?72 off-suit is mathematically the worst starting hand you can have in Texas Holdem. In fact, many home or cash games on TV have a bonus for winning with this hand to induce action.
Do you shuffle after EVERY Texas Holdem hand?It's called the Shuffle and Cut - and it's done after every hand. When a round is over and the pot is won and distributed, the deck must be shuffled. Live card rooms will alternate decks between hands. The deck must also be cut with minimum four cards with the bottoms of the decks hidden from players. Only then can dealer deal the next hand.